Review: Kenny Chesney returns with a rich, varied album

Mark Kennedy
Associated Press

Kenny Chesney’s new CD is his 17th studio album and it finds the country superstar sounding a little like a 17-year-old — caught between wild abandonment and moodiness.

The 11-song “Cosmic Hallelujah” is mature and also a little goofy. It pushes the boundaries of country and yet makes sure to come home for a comforting twang. It worries about the world and yet also blows it off. “I’s overexistentializin’ my redneck,” he sings happily.

“Cosmic Hallelujah” was supposed to come out last summer and it was going to be called something else. A new duet with Pink, “Setting the World on Fire” — an up-tempo party tune in the vein of Sheryl Crow “All I Wanna Do” — forced Chesney to reevaluate.

After frantic recording, the album emerged rich and varied, looking outward and also holed up at a bar. Beer is mentioned in five songs, whiskey in another and both are probably part of a toast on the last song, the respectful “Coach.”

Most intriguing are a pair of strong songs in which Chesney worries about society. “In the streets, in the crowds, it ain’t nothing but noise/Drowning out all the dreams of this Tennessee boy,” he sings on “Noise.” On “Rich and Miserable,” his target is consumption: “We don’t know what we want, but we want it/And we want it all right now.”

“Cosmic Hallelujah” finds a nice balance between preachy and summer fun. As Chesney sings on “Bucket”: “I quit worryin’ ’bout people’s expectations/And ordered up a six pack of chillaxification.”

‘Cosmic Hallelujah’

Kenny Chesney

Blue Chair/Sony